By Dennis Rainey
Whether your parents are living or have passed away, it may be time to take honor home to them.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are just around the corner and I have a challenge for you that could change your relationship with your parents and your life: Write a tribute to your mom and another for your dad.
In February of 1985 I wrote my very first tribute to my mom and made three mistakes:
#1: I mailed it to her. I should have taken it to her and personally presented it to her.
#2: I should have read it to her, face to face, with Barbara and our children watching. But I was afraid that as I read it I’d break down crying and wouldn’t finish.
I did do a couple of things right: I had it professionally printed on nice, glossy paper, and I framed it. But that led to my third mistake:
#3: I didn’t have any idea, as a 37-year-old young man, how impactful my words would be to my mom, so I went cheap when I should’ve gone BIG. I had it framed in a less than magnificent black frame that cost me less than 20 bucks.
I wrote about what I did and its impact in my book, The Forgotten Commandment:
And on a cold, dreary, overcast day in February, I packaged the framed tribute and mailed it to Mom.
Three days later, the phone rang. It was Mom. She was obviously touched by her surprise gift. Immediately I knew that this simple gesture had genuinely communicated things I had clumsily tried to say for years.
I had known she would like it, but I was unprepared for the depth of her appreciation. She hung it right above her table where she eats all her meals.
She has shared it with family members, the TV repairman, the plumber (who, she boasted proudly, asked for a copy), and countless others who have passed through her kitchen. Recently she told me, “On days when I’m down emotionally, I’ll read that (tribute) and think, ‘How can he write that about his mean, old mom?’” Seeing that tangible representation of my love on the wall above her breakfast table reminds her of the truth. Who knows how often she’s read it, just to get a little encouragement?
My mom received her graduation papers in 2001, and the one keepsake I wanted from her home, the tribute, now hangs in my office … right next to the tribute that I wrote to my dad, after his death. (More on that next week.) Here my mom’s tribute:
She’s More Than Somebody’s Mom
When she was 35, she carried him in her womb. It wasn’t easy being pregnant in 1948. There were no dishwashers or disposable diapers, and there were only crude washing machines. After nine long months, he was finally born. Breech. A difficult, dangerous birth. She still says, “He came out feet first, hit the floor running, and he’s been running ever since.” Affectionately she calls him “The Roadrunner.”
A warm kitchen was her trademark—the most secure place in the home—a shelter in the storm. Her narrow but tidy kitchen always attracted a crowd. It was the place where food and friends were made! She was a good listener. She always seemed to have the time.
Certain smells used to drift out of that kitchen—the aroma of a juicy cheeseburger drew him like a magnet. There were green beans seasoned with hickory smoked bacon grease. Sugar cookies. Pecan pie. And the best of all, chocolate bonbons.
Oh, she wasn’t perfect. Once when, as a mischievous three-year-old, he was banging pans together, she impatiently threw a pencil at him while she was on the phone. The pencil, much to her shock, narrowly missed his eye and left a sliver of lead in his cheek . . . it’s still there.
Another time she tied him to his bed because, when he was five years old, he tried to murder his teen-aged brother by throwing a gun at him. It narrowly missed his brother, but hit her prized antique vase instead.
She taught him forgiveness too. When he was a teenager she forgave him when he got angry and took a swing at her (and fortunately missed). The most profound thing she modeled was a love for God and people. Compassion was always her companion. She taught him about giving to others even when she didn’t feel like it.
She also taught him about accountability, truthfulness, honesty, and transparency. She modeled a tough loyalty to his dad. He always knew divorce was never an option. And she took care of her own parents when old age took its toll. She also went to church . . . faithfully. In fact, she led this six-year-old boy to Jesus Christ in her Sunday evening Bible study class.
Even today, her age doesn’t stop her from fishing in a cold rain, running off to get Chinese food, or “wolfing down” a cheeseburger and a dozen bonbons with her son.
She’s truly a woman to be honored. She’s more than somebody’s mother . . . she’s my Mom. “Mom, I love you.”
The process of writing a tribute
The impact on our relationship was so profound, in her life and in our relationship, I began to share the story with others and encourage them to fulfill the fifth commandment and honor their parents. Ultimately I wrote the book, The Forgotten Commandment, and when I asked readers for copies of tributes they wrote to their parents, letters began to stream in to my mailbox. That mailbox became a treasure trove of powerful stories of forgiveness, healing in relationships and spiritual growth accompanied those tributes.
I can’t promise you that taking honor home to your mother will heal all the hurts and wounds, but I can promise you that this process will be relationally healthy in the long run.
Here are a handful of tips in beginning the process of ultimately writing your Mom’s tribute:
1. Pray and ask God to bring to remembrance those character qualities, memories, and relational highlights that you can use to honor your mom. If you had a tough childhood/mom, you may want to ask a friend to pray for you as you go through this process.
2. Begin to jot these memories down as you recall them. This could take a week or a couple of months … don’t panic, the point is to begin to capture those memories. Barbara took nearly a year, but the tribute she wrote to her parents was magnificent.
3. Think creatively how you want to present your tribute. Do you want to frame it? Put it in a book. Include a drawing, or photos? Or … ?
4. Begin writing … and don’t worry about editing, just write. You can edit later. Spill your thoughts, heart, and love on paper or a keyboard and just keep writing.
5. After you have your rough draft, ask your spouse or a friend who can look it over and give you feedback and perhaps edit it.
6. When you finish the tribute and put it in its final form, make the trip…go and read it to your mom and take a few pictures with her afterward.
So here’s my challenge: Are you ready to embark on the incredible journey of truly honoring your mom this coming Mother’s Day?
You can do this.
Also … if you had a rough childhood with your mom that continues on to this day, read the chapter, “When the Damage Goes Deep” in my book The Forgotten Commandment. It has helped a lot of adult children process the harm, ultimately forgive her, and write your mom’s tribute.
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